SOAS University of London

SOAS South Asia Institute

Salon to Bollywood: Transitions in the Lyrical and Soundscape of thumri

IMG - SSAI Sanglaap 12 May
Various Speakers

Date: 12 May 2021Time: 3:00 PM

Finishes: 12 May 2021Time: 5:00 PM

Venue: Virtual Event

Type of Event: Virtual Event


In this specially commissioned SSAI Sanglaap project, researchers and practitioners of South Asian music join to converse and present their work charting the transition of musical genres. Such changes representing complex affective shifts in cultural practices and consumption have attracted the attention of theorists and performers. The pandemic recasts the intricate relationship between Indian music as a creative form and its cultural impact on community resilience. The popularity of thumri makes it a veritable site for experimentation in form responding to long term aesthetic change and emotions palpable in a society threatened by unprecedented upheavals. The presentation comprises comments by Anirban Bhattacharya (vocalist scholar), artist conversations by Shri Anjan Majumdar (concept and direction), and performances by thumri vocalists Rajoshree Bhattacharya, Amrita Roy and Sunanda Bhattacharya.

Thumri stands out as a unique raga-based love song genre and the most prominent "semi-classical" form within the present-day Hindustani Classical Music repertoire other than Ghazal. Rooted in the regional music of Uttar Pradesh, thumri was appropriated by the north Indian court dance form Kathak privileging the feminine "voice" of the heroine (nayika) in the form of the celebrated mythical Radha and "acting" (abhinaya) inherent in the music form itself. In the early films, thumri appeared as a romantic song-dance genre contrary to the more masculine Khayal form of singing. There have been consistent contemporary efforts to secularize the devotional aspect of thumri through a mixture of the traditional Radha-Krishna deified imagery with neutral vernacular expressions Saiyaan and Piya denoting love and estrangement. The use of thumri in Bollywood film music, accompanied by modern electronic instruments, exemplifies changing consumer aesthetics. Lyrical and soundscape transformation demonstrates the recurring tension between classical, semi-classical genres of South Asian music, the rubric of fusion, and emerging World Music.

Artist Conversations led by Dr Sanjukta Ghosh (SSAI), Guru Shri Anjan Majumdar (Concept, Music Direction and Sound Design) with three vocalists Rajoshree Bhattacharya Ghosh (Rabindra Bharati University), Amrita Roy (Calcutta University) and Sunanda Bhattacharya (Calcutta University).

Comments by: Anirban Bhattacharyya (PhD scholar, Shiv Nadar University) is a Hindustani classical vocalist of the Patiala tradition and a senior disciple of Padmabhushan Ajoy Chakraborty. He is learning from and performing with the legendary Kathak maestro Padma Vibhushan Birju Maharaj.


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Organiser: SOAS South Asia Institute

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